Moorish Style:  Orientalism, the Jews, and Synagogue Architecture

Ivan Kalmar

This unpublished draft version is close to the article published in Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, and Society 7(3): 68-100, 2001.  Please quote only from the published article. 

Students in ANT 426: Sections in black are required reading. Sections in blue are recommended.

The Jerusalem Street synagogue is located in uptown Prague, away from the hustle and bustle of the touristy Jewish Town.  Still, on Saturday mornings a few stray tourists find their way to the prayer room up the unlit stairs, making sure there is a minyan.  This time there is a couple from England and a young Israeli of Libyan origin.  They are shown around the darkened sanctuary.  The dim light filtering in through the horseshoe-shaped windows reveals some of the plentiful arabesques that cover everything in sight, including the organ at the back.  In the exotic shape of the pillars and the arches, the art historian might detect Arabic and Iranian influence.  The English couple asks if this was a Sephardic synagogue.  The Israeli is reminded, he says, of synagogues back in Libya.

Nearly a hundred years ago, in a different world, Rabbi Aladar Deutsch spoke at the dedication ceremony here.  In attendance were the Viceroy of Bohemia, the mayor, the police chief and other high city officials, the president of the commodities exchange and the secretary of the bourse, as well as "numerous industrialists, wholesale traders, lawyers, representatives of the Press, etc."[1]   A female coloratura led the organ and the mixed choir in a wrenching rendition of "Hallelujah."  One of the rabbis present lit the eternal light.  Soon a swarm of white-clad boys and girls strewing anemone blossoms began their march down the aisle.  The women smiled at them from above, seated atop the galleries held up by colonnades of wavy arches reminiscent of the fabled mosques and palaces of the East.  The blazing colors of the richly painted interior added to the atmosphere of oriental splendor.  "Pure Moorish style," an enthusiastic journalist qualified it.[2]  The boys and girls ascended the staircase to the altar platform and took their places along the sides.  They were followed by synagogue dignitaries carrying Torah scrolls, which they placed in the Ark.  The organ continued to play.  Then the architect spoke, followed by Rabbi Deutsch.  His presentation gave place to a military cantor, who intoned the prayer for the Emperor.  Finally, a rousing rendition of the national anthem concluded the happy occasion.  Just before lunch, on the sixteenth of September, 1906, the "His Majesty Emperor Francis Joseph I Jubilee Temple" of Prague was consecrated as a House of God.

Deutsch's temple was a rather late example of the "Moorish style synagogue," an architectural phenomenon that began in Germany in the 1830's and was popular throughout much of Jewry until about the outbreak of World War I.  The pillars inside the major Berlin and Dresden synagogues were copied from the famed Alhambra.  Fabulous white onion-bulb domes, recalling the Taj Mahal, dominate the four corners of the Israelite Temple of Turin.  The Plum Street Temple in Cincinnati has two enormous minarets, numerous domes, and a “donkey-back” entrance arch typical of many famous mosques.  There are dozens more such exotic synagogues in Europe and America.  There were more before.

The English visitors and the Libyan-Israeli were wrong.  Moorish style synagogues were not built for Sephardim but for Ashkenazim.  Very few - and it seems none until the late eighteen seventies - were meant to make any reference at all to the Jews of Muslim Spain.  The style is called “Moorish” because Moorish architecture, and especially the Alhambra of Granada, dominated the image that early nineteenth-century Europeans had of Islamic architecture as a whole.  To them (though they were capable of making finer distinctions if they had to) a Muslim was a Muslim.  As one art historian put it:

"Moorish style" is a Western concept and in its widest sense denotes a style derived from Islamic design elements found in countries ranging from Spain, in the West, to Mogul India, in the East.[3]

It was also once called the "Mahometan," "Arabian," or "Saracen" style. ("Byzantine" was also sometimes carelessly included under the same heading.)  To avoid overidentification with Moorish Spain, some recent writers have preferred the term “Moorish-Islamic,”[4] or simply “Islamic.”[5]

If today not a few tour guides, art historians, and local chroniclers read into these synagogues a Sephardic reference, it may be because, looking back through the veil of decades of Arab-Jewish strife, “the Golden Age of the Jews” in Spain is the only positive Muslim-Jewish connection that still makes sense. 

Such a connection did indeed exist in the consciousness of modernizing Ashkenazic Jewry, as Ismar Schorsch has powerfully demonstrated.[6]  But the object of our study is, to use Umberto Eco' terms, the intentio operis of the Moorish-style synagogues, rather than the intentio lectoris of their visitors today.[7]  If we are to unearth the intentions of the architects and their clients, then we must base ourselves on contemporary textual and architectural evidence.  And that points to a feeling of “Semitic” or “oriental” pride among the Jews that had little if anything to do with the glories of Sepharad.  References to medieval Sephardic synagogues appear only in the last decades of the nineteenth century, when the Moorish style synagogue was possibly past its heyday.  Even then, we shall see, references to Muslim Spain and its Jews are embedded in broader references to the Orient (i.e. the world of Islam) as a whole.  Although Schorsch in its otherwise excellent work explicitly denied this possibility, the texts point not to some supposed contrast between Sepharad and the Orient as sources of mythological inspiration for Central European Jews, but rather to an ideology where the supposed Jewish glories in Muslim Spain are but one example of the attraction, to the Jews, of the "Orient" (read, the world of the "Semites") as a whole.

For the dilemma that leading students of the Moorish style synagogue could not solve - how could Jews choose to build oriental buildings, when being called oriental was something they wished to avoid - is a false dilemma.[8]  The Jews did not always and everywhere mind being called oriental.  Throughout much of the nineteenth century, indeed, many Jews confidently asserted their “oriental” origins, and their “oriental” race.  (In Europe, “oriental” to this day means primarily Middle and Near Eastern.)  Benjamin Disraeli wrote with excitement about the Jews whom he described, in his novel Tancred, as “Arabs without horses.” A full six years before the Comte de Gobineau's Essay on the inequality of races (1853-55), the hero of Tancred declared that “race is all.”  The Jewish-Arabian race was obviously a fine stock.  In Tancred Disraeli stated that God has ever only revealed himself to an Arab, meaning no doubt that Moses and Jesus were Arabs, as well as Muhammad.

In Germany, the most strident example was Moses Hess, among other things Marx’s collaborator on the Neue rheinische Zeitung.  As if in response to Marx (or was Marx replying to him?), in Rome and Jerusalem: The Last Nationality Question (1862) Hess claimed that

The race struggle is primary; the class struggle is secondary.[9]

Those who battled in the "race struggle" were the Aryans and the Semites.  Hess’ “Rome” and “Jerusalem” were mere metaphors for these two “races.”  On the other hand, when the Italian risorgimento politician, David Levi, speaks (some twenty years later) of the fight between Rome and Jerusalem, he means an actual event in ancient history.  It was, he says, the struggle of “a handful of men who in the name of nationality opposed their existence against the entire Roman world.”[10] 

Levi’s discourse, like Hess’, is permeated with binary oppositions like the following:

The Occident investigates, experiments, decomposes and recomposes matter in order to discover its laws.  The Orient, as a historian says, is the anxious work of humanity managing its God.[11]

A radical division of the world into an East and a West, such as Levi’s, defines what we call orientalism. The expressions of oriental or Semitic pride that have just been quoted are examples of orientalism.  The term has in recent decades acquired a pejorative sense due to the insightful ground-breaking study of it by Edward Said.[12]  Said described orientalism as a "discourse" that favored Western domination.  Said's complex and richly nuanced argument has, unfortunately, been vulgarized by many of his followers into an interpretation of orientalism as a single-minded, transparently hostile ideology.[13]  In this essay such an interpretation is avoided; instead we see orientalism as a complex and contradictory phenomenon, in which a multiplicity of voices is heard.  There was the racist and ethnocentric voice justifying imperialism, which was overtly hostile.  However, there were also other voices that were intended to be complimentary to the East: the romantic voice critical of rationality, the anti-modern voice critical of "progress," the misogynous voice justifying male sexual domination.  The "positive," admiring sorts of orientalism were articulated in the context of the disparaging, "negative" ones, and vice versa.  And the language of orientalism was spoken by both "occidentals" and "orientals."

During the period when Moorish style synagogues were built, the Jews were considered by others and by themselves as the orientals of the West.  They hoped to make orientalist idealizations of themselves prevail over the orientalist vituperations.  Rather than rejecting the East-West dichotomy, and the rhetoric of race, they bought into it.  They hoped that they could convince the public of the nobility of their oriental blood - and sometimes they did. 

The Moorish style synagogue was an expression of their quest.

Architectural Characteristics

The journalist who said that Rabbi Deutsch's synagogue in Prague was in "pure Moorish style" was exaggerating.  Moorish style could never be pure.  No architect ever aimed to recreate on Western soil an actual oriental palace or mosque (let alone one of the famous "oriental" synagogues such as those of medieval Spain.)  The ground plan, structural engineering, and important stylistic elements always reflected contemporary Western tastes and practices.  What was Islamic was mainly decorative.  The only structural element adapted from the "Orient" were perhaps the slender pillars with floral and vegetal capitals.  And these, too, were often made of iron, using the latest Western methods of construction. 

To refer to the eclectic character of a synagogue, writers often use impressionistic epithets like Moorish-Byzantine or Moorish-Romanesque.  These can be helpful as long as it is remembered that all Moorish style synagogues are eclectic; the "hyphenated" synagogues are as Moorish as they come.  Many buildings combined Moorish and Renaissance, Moorish and Romanesque, or Moorish and Gothic. [14]   Later, art nouveau features became visible, including at Deutsch’s Jerusalem Street temple. 

The gross features of the Moorish synagogue followed those of church architecture.  The "minarets" that graced the exterior, for example, were typically a pair located exactly where church steeples would be.  Though some temples more boldly featured four towers, one in each corner of the roof, none imitated the majority of mosques, which feature just one minaret.  The interior of the synagogue was identical to a church in its overall layout.  It is true that a transept, which would result in a cross-shaped ground plan, was generally avoided.  The Ark of the Covenant, too, was typically placed at the Eastern wall in conformity with Jewish tradition, so that there was seldom a choir.  But such changes to the medieval plan had also been made in most non-Anglican Protestant churches, for they, just like the synagogue, did not need the space used in Catholic churches for side altars and perambulations. 

Since the Moorish style of a synagogue is always only one part of its architectural and ornamental features, it follows that there are buildings that are more Moorish and those that are less, depending on the number and prominence of their Moorish features. 

In terms of the synagogue exterior, a reasonable suggestion might be to classify as Moorish only buildings that show one or both of the following features:

a) a stone parapet with ornamental crenellations taken from, or inspired by, Islamic examples;

b) horseshoe windows and/or doors.

In the proper context, in addition, the following features can be read as Moorish:

c) one or more domes, often inspired by some Eastern model like the Taj Mahal;

d) towers evoking (usually very vaguely) a minaret;

e) horizontal bands in two alternating colors, typically yellow and red, made of brick or alternating brick and stone; and

f) a glazed octagonal medallion in the façade, where the rosary window would be in a church.

In the interior, the Moorish style synagogue may display

g) rich polychrome decoration following contemporary design books often inspired by the Alhambra;

h) an Ark of the Covenant decorated with a cornice with orientalist crenellations similar or identical to those on the external parapet. 

In both the exterior and the interior, including the Ark, there may be:

i) arches with multiple, often horseshoe-shaped, lobes, and

j) slender pillars with floral capitals inspired by the Alhambra. [15]  

Different architectural and decorative features characterized different periods of Moorish synagogue building.  The polychrome interior with multilobed arches has been closest to de rigeur from the start, the orientalist crenellations since the eighteen fifties and the horseshoe arch from the sixties (though there are isolated earlier examples of each). 

The Moorish style was not invented for synagogues.  By the time the first Moorish style synagogue was built, European architects had built mock mosques in aristocratic pleasure gardens, fantastic orientalist exhibition halls at the immensely popular international exhibitions, and a number of pleasure residences in an orientalist style.  The best known among the latter were the Royal Pavilion at Brighton, completed in 1815 as a residence for the Prince Regent, adding to the already completed, "Mahometan"-style stables for his Arabian horses.  The Pavilion was Mogul-inspired on the outside, and largely Chinese on the inside, visually illustrating the unity that the "Orient" represented to Europeans at the time.

All such buildings had, in spite of varying degrees of earnestness in their claim of exoticism, an air of care-free amusement.  Beyond architecture, orientalist entertainments included the opera.  Mozart's Magic Flute features a scary Moor, while his Abduction from the Seraglio and The Goose of Cairo, like Rossini's Il Turco in Italia and La Italiana in Alghieri, all feature classic buffoons in the form of Muslim characters (though some also present more admirable Muslims). Their somewhat more plebeian equivalents were the "exotic" magicians, flame-eaters, harem dancers, horse trainers and "fakirs" that enthralled fair-goers and circus patrons.  Moorish style buildings often housed permanent exhibits of exotic animals: in Cologne, there were architectural similarities between the zoo and the Glockengasse synagogue.

The synagogue provides the lone example of Moorish architecture in the West that is completely free of any associations with "fun."  Unlike zoo animals or the Japanese printmakers at an international exhibition, the Jews praying in a Moorish style synagogue were not there to display themselves to others.  Though the idea of building synagogues in an exotic “oriental” style was the brainchild of Gentile well wishers, after a period of resistance many Jewish communities embraced it with great earnestness.

The Broader Social and Architectural Context

The appearance of the first Moorish style synagogues happened in the context of intensive church building in the early nineteenth century.  In England, few churches were built during the decades around 1800.  But in 1818, Parliament felt compelled to vote £1 million for building new churches.  In 1824, it added another £½ million.  It was still only the privileged and those who could hope to join them that voted.  They placed great trust in morality - or better, respectability.  To the bourgeois, respectable behavior legitimated their social standing, in their own eyes and hopefully those of others.  In the threatening masses of the growing working class and Lumpenproletariat, respectable behavior would, it was hoped, instill respect for social order.  Education was one project that would spread respectability among the masses; religious practice was another. 

To underscore the leading role of religion in society, imposing new churches were built in prominent locations.  (One reason for choosing the Gothic style was that its vertical projection made a church visible from a long distance.)  Redesigned urban centers, new areas created by growing urbanization, and - especially in the New World - new towns, had to feature a centrally located church or churches. 

The Jews of Central and Western Europe and America, more solidly middle class than others, could sympathize with this aim of religiously-based respectability.  Just as they had embraced education enthusiastically, the Jews wished to appear respectable in terms of their religious practice.  To that end, it made sense to build large synagogues in conspicuous places, where they would join as equals the local church or churches in advertising, in mortar and stone, the civic virtues of religion.

Gentile dignitaries were proudly invited to the consecration ceremony: Bismarck was among the guests opening the New Synagogue of Berlin in 1866.  Their presence certified to the Jews that they were now accepted as a legitimate religion along with the Christian denominations.  They thought, often prematurely, to have put behind them the days when the shul had to be a little house with a yard entrance, looking no different from its secular neighbors.

But if synagogues could now be as large and as visible as a church, should they look like a church, too?  As Heinrich Hübsch's famous 1828 pamphlet, "In What Style Shall We Build?" reveals, choice of style was a prime concern for nineteenth-century architects.  Many believed that different styles suited different purposes.  The "pagan" architecture of classic Greece and Rome, and its reincarnation in the Renaissance, were thought of as fine models for civic buildings. For churches, the Christian-invented styles, Gothic and Romanesque, were considered more suitable.  Furthermore, the Gothic was seen by many as a Catholic style, while the Romanesque was said to reflect the early, uncorrupted church that inspired Protestants.  This did not seem to prevent Protestants, especially in Anglican England, to build Gothic-style churches.  But in Protestant parts of Germany, it meant that churches were more often neo-Romanesque.

Gothic and Romanesque synagogues were not unusual, but a number of building authorities, architects, and Jewish communities believed that a Christian style was inappropriate for the Jews. [16]   When the Grand Duke of Anhalt-Dessau had a synagogue built in his gardens at Wörlitz (1789-90), its design was a "pagan" one:  it resembled a Temple of Vespa. 

The classic style was also chosen for two other early examples of a conspicuous synagogue in modern Ashkenazic Europe:  one in Karlsruhe, completed in 1798 and the other in Óbuda (Alt-Ofen, now part of Budapest), in 1820-21.  In addition to its classicist features, the Karlsruhe synagogue featured two tall Egyptian-style pylons flanking its gate, and in Óbuda four obelisks rose from the bimah.  These experiments in Egyptian style had represented the first attempts to decorate synagogues in an oriental manner.  Its elements are also seen at Munich (1826) and as far as Hobart, Tasmania (1843). But the massive angularity of the Egyptian style, which harmonized well with the classicist fashion of the late eighteenth century, was losing its appeal by the nineteenth thirties, along with a gradual decline in the Egyptomania that had been encouraged by archeological discoveries and Napoleon’s expedition to the Nile.  The romantics preferred the less disciplined medieval styles to the angular features of ancient architecture, Western and oriental.  The oriental equivalent for the Gothic and Romanesque that they admired was the Moorish style, curvacious, ornamental, and dating to about the same period.  So as romanticism gained in visibility, it was to be the Moorish style, not the Egyptian, that encoded the oriental character of the Jews.  The switch was rationalized by a Gentile Romantic architect, author, and intellectual like Hugo von Schuchardt by the popular hypothesis that, as he put it, the Israelites’ buildings in ancient Palestine probably “took on the character of their neighbors, the Arabs.”  Schuchardt thought this to be proven by the nature of archeological finds in Palestine.  And at any rate, he added, the “Egyptian style does not appear to be suitable for a synagogue but rather would only remind the Israelites of the saddest period in their history” when they were captives in Pharaoh’s land.[17]

Jews as an Oriental Race

The early beginnings of the Moorish style synagogue reflected the views of enlightened Gentiles about the Jewish religion and people.  True, the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, few Gentiles doubted that the Jews were, with honorable exceptions, dedicated mainly to enriching themselves in whatever way possible, and preferably away from the public light.  However, many "enlightened" thinkers and rulers blamed not the Jews, but the way the Gentiles had treated them.  Given better treatment, they believed, the Jews would improve themselves and, even perhaps, rise to the glory of the days of David and Solomon.  As these ladies and gentlemen considered the Jews to be an "oriental people," it seemed logical to them that the House of God in which orientals worshipped should reflect the erstwhile brilliance of the Orient.  There was a parallel here between their view of the Jews and of the Muslims of their own day:  both were thought to have declined from better days, and both were thought capable of rising to their former greatness under, of course, the guidance of enlightened Christians.

Time and time again, the architects of synagogues point to the oriental origins of the Jewish people as the motivation for choosing the Moorish style.

Gottfried Semper, when building the Dresden temple (1838-1840), referred its decoration, as his art historian son was to recall, to the “oriental origin” of his clients:

In spite of the simplicity of his means Semper was able to lend a high degree of character and monumentality to this building, in that he gave the exterior an earnest Romanesque stylization, while in the interior he used a rich and ornamental design, which was appropriate to the … oriental origin of the Jewish race (Stamm).[18]

Otto Simonson justified in a similar way his decision to build a Moorish style exterior as well as interior in Leipzig.  Note that it is not the Holy Land, but the entire “Orient” that this Jewish architect identifies as the ancestral land of his people.

The Moorish style seems to me the most characteristic.  Jewry hangs on with indestructible piety to its heritage, customs, and usages.  The organization of its religious practice and, in short, its entire existence lives in reminiscences on its motherland, the Orient.[19]

Such examples can be multiplied at great length.  The reference to “oriental origins” dominated discourse about Moorish style synagogues; and it was only within the context of that discourse that a member of the Turin community, G. Guastalla, came up apparently for the first time and as late as 1884, with the idea of relating the style to Jewish life in Muslim Spain.  He wrote that

the most celebrated Rabbis adopted into the ancestral doctrine that which was produced by the Arabs, transmitting it unaltered to [nourish] the heritage of the civilization of the late middle ages, and there they raised for their own religious practices temples using the same style as those famous religious and secular buildings of Cordoba, Seville, and Granada that have survived to our own day, a style that, besides, was also in harmony with their artistic genius and their temperament; seeing that it [was a style that] derived from the Orient, where their race had its origin.[20]

What is remarkable here is the way Guastalla privileges not the original Sephardic achievement, but the way Spanish Jews assimilated the civilization of the Arabs in harmony with their common racial heritage.

The "Temple of Solomon"

Guastalla preceded the above-quoted remarks with some comments that were typical for most nineteenth century writers discussing synagogue style.  He declared that a synagogue should be modeled on the Temple in Jerusalem – a goal that was mainstream among the architects of Moorish style synagogues.  And, like other writers on the subject, Guastalla added that the difficulty in reaching that goal was to determine just what the Temple had looked like.

Since there was no detailed account about the style of the Temple, it was the practice throughout the nineteenth century to imagine that it reflected what was then known of the building art of Israel’s neighbors – and hence, of the larger oriental world surrounding the Jewish homeland.  Eduard Bürklein, who designed a Moorish style synagogue at Heidenheim in 1849, justified in rather unflattering terms his choice of an oriental style by arguing that the Jews have never developed an original form of art but have always, including in the case of the Temple, adapted the art of their neighbors.  In “one word,” he concluded, “they would have built in oriental style.[21]

More influential – as well as more clearly expressed - was the thinking of Ludwig Förster, who succeeded in making a positive connection between the oriental identity of the Jews with the need to use the Temple as a model for synagogues.  In giving the background to his groundbreaking design for the Vienna-Leopoldstadt synagogue (1853-1858), he explained that

It is known to be a difficult task indeed to build an Israelite Temple in a form required by the religion and suitable for its practice, and at the same time corresponding, at least in its essential features to the hallowed ideal of all temples, the Temple of Solomon.  It is doubly difficult in so far as [the building's] external architecture is concerned, for the existing records cannot nearly provide us with a reliable picture; and those Houses of God that belong to a later time either lack any distinct style or carry features that are in their inner being entirely alien to the Israelite religion.

In my humble opinion the right way, given the circumstances, is to choose, when building and Israelite Temple, those architectural forms that have been used by oriental ethnic groups that are related to the Israelite people, and in particular the Arabs ...[22]

To link the need to emulate the Arabs with the desire to refer to the Temple, Förster expressed the belief that Arabic architecture was in fact in large measure influenced by – the Temple.[23]  He illustrated this in his comments on some of the detail of the Leopoldstadt temple’s interior.

The columns at the corners of the central nave are crowned in the façade with lanterns, and should recall the pillars in Solomon's Temple, about which it is written, "and he built two columns before the Temple, one on the right and the other on the left; the one on the right was called Jachin and the one on the left Boaz."[24]

Now the custom, he wrote,

dating to the earliest of times, to erect such columns in front of temples, has passed into Arabic architecture, and we find such in the form of Minarets (light towers) among the Orientals in general.[25]

The comment, of course, shows the architect's ignorance of Islamic architecture.  He adds that his "lanterns, filled with light at night, should invite the believers to worship."  Förster thought that the minaret was a light tower used to announce services in the mosque, and that the same function would be fulfilled by his lanterns. 

Early History: A Gentile-Jewish Dialogue

Accurate or not, the concept of the Temple of Solomon as the product of an oriental people and built in an oriental style was, then, a major object of speculative thought for the Gentiles.  It took a while for it to be the same for significant numbers of Jews.When the first Moorish-style synagogues were built the Jews were only beginning to emerge, if ever more powerfully, as interlocutors in the great secular and religious debates of the age.

It is not impossible that the horseshoe windows on Prague’s Grossenhof Synagogue date to the rebuilding after the fire of 1754.[26]  But a more unequivocal beginning was made only much later, in the eighteen thirties, in the erstwhile Kingdom of Bavaria.[27]  Here the important architect Friedrich von Gärtner appears to have been involved in a plan to build several synagogues in Moorish style.[28]  The first may have been the one at Ingenheim, built between 1830 and 1832.[29]  It was followed by Binswangen in 1835, Kirchheimbolanden in 1836, and Speyer in 1837.  

The small Palatine community of Ingenheim may have been the first place where the authorities actually managed to build a Moorish style synagogue, but it was not the first where they tried.  The Jews were often less than enthusiastic, and rejected plans to encode their exotic origins in the form of prominently displayed Houses of God.  A good example is Kassel, where the Jews had to fight off Gentile designs for their synagogue well before the idea of an orientalist structure even arose.  One idea, proposed either in 1776 or 1781, was to build a temple that had the circular form of the Pantheon in Rome, and displayed classicist ornamentation and the inscription "D.O.M." an abbreviation for "Dei Optimo Maximo," but also a homonym in German for "dome," a cathedral or temple.[30]  Subsequently, the Kassel Jews refused several Egyptian-style proposals, and finally in 1834 one in Moorish style, by the court architect Julius Eugen Ruhl, who might have been influenced by what was just beginning to happen in Bavaria. 

Dr. Pinhas, the leader of the community, protested that oriental styles in general, and specifically the Temple as a model, were not suitable for Jewish worship, because the Jewish people had passed the longest period of their history in the West, not the East.[31]  Pinhas’ history was interesting: it works if one dates the beginning of the Jewish people to the “Temple of Solomon” (cca. 1000 B.C.E.); hardly if one goes back to the Exodus from Egypt.  This makes it clear that Pinhas was thoroughly familiar with Gentile rhetoric on Jews, orientals and the Holy Temple, but he rejected it.  His message was clear: do not marginalize us as aliens, for we have become one with yourselves.   He was vehemently supported by the Kassel Jewish architect, Albert Rosengarten.

The Kassel story, however, is not to be read as a suggestion that all Jews were opposed to the Moorish style.  Oriental self-identity no doubt appealed to many of them as early as the late eighteenth century.  Gotthold Lessing’s play Nathan the Wise (1779) was passionately espoused by generations of German Jews as the symbol of German respect for themselves.  Nathan was clearly an oriental; his camels plied the desert with their cargo of splendid oriental riches, and he was both moral and financial advisor to the famed Saladin. 

Lessing was a freemason.  This was not a coincidence.  The deist beliefs of freemasonry led some of its practitioners to open the doors of their lodges to the Jews. Indeed, the Masonic lodges became, in the late eighteenth century, the first social forum in which Jews and Gentiles could meet as equals.  It is true that permission for Jews to adhere was often given only grudgingly, or, as was the case with many German lodges, never.  But the fact that there were lodges that welcomed Jews was surely of the greatest significance for the latter's absorption into secular society.

According to one reliable account cited by Jacob Katz, the entire leadership of the Frankfurt Jewish community were members of the Morgenröthe lodge until 1830, and the situation was not much different thereafter.[32]  In other cities, too, Katz maintains, the Jewish masons were a decisive influence.

The popularity of freemasonry among forward-looking Jews as well as among the general public was probably directly responsible for that of the Moorish style temple.  In Förster’s discussion of the columns Jachin and Boaz there is more than immediately meets the eye.  Jachin and Boaz happen to be a crucial element of freemason myth and ritual.  Freemasons regard Hiram of Tyre, the Phoenician who was said to be the Temple's architect under King Solomon, as the grand "wise man" of Freemasonry - part Homer, part Moses, part Jesus.  (In comparison to Solomon's Temple, its reconstruction under Herod has been of little interest to the Masons.)  As told in the Bible, Hiram “set up the columns at the portico of the great Hall; he set up one column on the right and named it Jachin, and he set up the other column on the left and named it Boaz.”[33]  He placed in them, so say the Masons, secret documents detailing "ancient wisdom," as well as the shamir, with which allegedly the Temple was built.  In reminiscence, in the Masonic “temples” of the Old Rite there are two columns marked respectively as Jachin and Boaz. David Levi, the nineteenth-century writer and leader of the risorgimento who has already been mentioned, included in his Il Profeta o La Passione di un Popolo a scene where different parts of the Temple, including the columns Jachin and Boaz, speak in verse to impart their wisdom to a novice.  Depictions of the columns frequently appear on ritual plates and aprons owned by Freemasons from the eighteenth century on.

As any reasonable student of Masonic history knows, the freemason lodges were, with some exceptions, far from the secretive conspiracies that their enemies made them out to be.  Masonic ideas drew on a bank of occult “knowledge” with roots at least in the  Renaissance, an array of esoteric traditions associated in part with the Kabbalah and similar "sacred knowledge" of the Jews.[34]  These continued to have a widespread influence on the eighteenth and nineteenth century imagination, within and without the lodges.  This is part of the reason why Mozart’s Magic Flute, which is deliberate Masonic propaganda, was able to draw the crowds.  Though Mozart was a Mason, there is little evidence that he visited the lodge any more frequently than someone like George Washington, known to have been a very casual Mason.  The commonly held belief that most of the French National Assembly on the eve of the Revolution were Masons is probably exaggerated.  But even if it is not, it does not point to any revolutionary conspiracy.  Membership of a lodge did not necessarily mean any great dedication to its much less than well-kept secrets, and even less did it mean participation in some underground political plot.  What the frequency of Masonic membership does prove is the extent of attraction to Masonic lore at the time.  Some people were active Masons, others dabbled with freemasonry, and most were curious bystanders; but everyone know about and was fascinated by the Brotherhood.  One of the things they found fascinating was the lore surrounding the supposed mysteries of the Holy Temple. 

Both Masons and liberal Jews (like liberal Protestants) called their meeting place a “temple.”  On a trip to Hamburg in the 1840’s, Heine quipped:

The Jews, again, may be divided

Into distinctive Parties two;

The Old go to the Synagogue,

To the Temple go the New. [35]

The Hamburg "Temple" that Heine was referring to was constructed in 1842.  It included a Moorish style cornice inside a building with largely Gothic features.  Its rabbi, Gotthold Salomon, made the most of the ambiguity of its informal name, “The Second Temple.”  Literally, the name was a reference to the fact that this was the second building meant to serve the local Reform congregation.  Yet there was a subtext that Salomon brought into the open as he repeated, like a refrain, the prophet's promise regarding Herod's Temple, "Greater shall be the glory of this last House than that of the first."[36]  The Rabbi suggested that "this, brothers, could also become the truth about our Second Temple."[37]  The temple of the "New" Jews of the West would respect, but also improve upon, the oriental Temple of old.

At the stone-laying ceremony, the choir offered a hymn specially composed for the occasion.  “East and West, bound in beauty,” it sang, “Ost und Westen / schön verbunden.”[38] 

It was this “beautiful” union that at least the early Moorish style temples were meant to symbolize.  The Ingenheim building combined horseshoe-shaped openings with a stair-shaped domestic-Gothic roof reminiscent of the Altneuschul in Prague. The Altneuschul was considered to be, along with the synagogue at Worms, the prime example of a “German” medieval synagogue.[39]  The symbolic union of the Gothic roof with the “oriental” gate and windows represented the synthesis of German and oriental identity that modernizing, liberal German-speaking Jews strove for.

The first example of extensive Moorish style features in a synagogue located in a major city was the temple at Dresden (1838-1840).  Gottfried Semper, a rebellious student of von Gärtner’s, decorated the entire interior of the synagogue in what he called “Moorish-Byzantine” style.  Semper appears to have had an elaborate set of allegorical meanings in mind,[40] but all that remains on record is his remark that the interior of the dome was painted blue with golden sun rays, in order to recall the “seventh heaven of the Old Testament.”[41]  Incidentally, “Seventh heaven” is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.  It is an esoteric concept that Semper may have associated with the Jews because of the prominence quasi-kabalistic concepts play in Masonic lore. 

The first city synagogue that was intended to be unmistakably Moorish inside and out was probably the synagogue of Mainz - back in the Palatinate - begun in 1844 but not completed before 1853.  

A year later, in 1854, the foundation stone was laid for the Leipzig synagogue designed by Otto Simonson.  In fact, Simonson's temple had little influence on subsequent synagogue building.[42]  The famous dome of the New Temple in Berlin (on Oranienburg Street, 1859-1866) is unmistakably influenced by the Royal Pavilion in Brighton; little here points to an influence from Leipzig, or, for that matter, any other Moorish style temple that was already standing.  Clearly, what an architect knew of the Moorish style at this time would have come more from secular examples than from the few synagogues in the style that were already in existence.

The Dresden interior may have had some influence on Förster’s Viennese synagogue (1853-1858), and on his Dohány Street synagogue of Budapest (1854-1859). It was Förster's work that provided the most effective example for the veritable avalanche of Moorish synagogue building that followed between the eighteen sixties and the eighteen eighties.

The Leopoldstadt (Tempelgasse) synagogue was completed as much as three years after Leipzig, but it was begun a year before the latter.  It has a three part-façade, with a taller middle section.  Such a design is clearly rooted in local architectural traditions, but the Temple of Jerusalem, too, was believed to have this type of front.  To create an "oriental" impression that would be convincing enough to his contemporaries, Förster added a number of slender towers, both on the façade and along the sides of the building, separated by a dense stone cornice with "oriental" crenellations.  This solution was to become classic in Moorish synagogue building, although the series of small ornamental towers could be replaced by two tall, imposing domed shafts, as on Förster's Budapest masterpiece.  Another influential feature of the exterior was a large octagonal, Islamic-style medallion opening in the façade, replacing the rosary window of a church.  The interior of each Förster synagogue was featured abundant multilobed arches and a busy polychrome finish. 

At the completion ceremony of the Viennese temple, Rabbi Jellinek laid a "completion stone" that, he said, came "from Zion's holy and divinely consecrated soil, and was dug up from the land of an Israelite, the Israelite Raja Don Perez." [43]  He praised Förster's divinely given talent, artistic gifts, and scientific knowledge.  Soon Förster’s work was imitated throughout the Habsburg Empire and in Jewish communities with roots in its realms.  Förster's influence is palpable in the "Spanish Synagogue" of Prague (1867-1868),[44] the Choral Temple of Bucharest (1864-1868), the synagogue of Písek (now Czech Republic, 1872) or even that of Giessen in Germany (1878).  The tall towers of the Budapest Temple have been said to have inspired James Keys Wilson, the architect of the Plum Street Temple in Cincinnati (1863-1868), to build the two giant minarets for which his work has been best known.[45]   (Others claim that the towers were inspired by the Friday Mosque at Isfahan.[46])  The Vienna temple was likely also in the mind of Leopold Eidlitz, the Prague-born architect who built the 1868, Moorish style abode of New York's congregation Emanu-El, funded, it has been said, largely by the local freemasons.[47]

The Heyday

Having established itself in the major Jewish centers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the United States, by the 1870’s the Moorish style synagogue was so widely and, for the most part, enthusiastically accepted by Jews and Gentiles that it became the prime choice for liberal Ashkenazim almost everywhere.

It was also chosen by some forward-looking Orthodox.  What mattered was not so much religious philosophy as the extent to which a Jew took part in secular life and engaged with Gentiles around the moral, religious, intellectual, and political issues of the time.  The distinction was encoded by the notorious German terms Ostjude and Westjude. The Western Jew was said to have been modern, the Eastern Jew, backward.  "Eastern" meant "East European."  ("Eastern Europe," at that, was felt to begin farther east than today, with the northeastern Austro-Hungarian provinces of Galicia and Bukowina.  This left Breslau, Prague and Budapest firmly in the homeland of the "Western Jew.")  The distinction between "Eastern" and "Western" Jews was, of course, misleading.  Even in Russia there were so-called assimilated Jews whose attitudes matched, mutatis mutandis, those of the more westerly Jews; while in the West there were pockets of irredentist traditionalists, both immigrant and native-born.  Westjude and Ostjude referred not so much to geography as to the degree of dialogue with Gentile ways of life and thought.

Since the discourse of orientalism was one that originated outside the Jewish communities, it was the worldly Westjuden who responded to it, while the Ostjuden kept their distance.  This explains why Moorish style synagogues were built only by the most westward-looking Jewish communities in Russia - in places like Odessa and St. Petersburg - and rarely if ever in the so-called Pale of Settlement, where most Jews lived. 

It also explains why most Moorish style synagogues show at least some of the typical signs of nineteenth-century religious reforms:  the reader's stand is near the Ark facing the congregation, there is an organ, there may be stained glass windows and/or a pulpit.  For most Westjuden communities were dominated by relatively liberal elements, even if they did not necessarily accept the label "Reform."  Many "Western" Orthodox, though familiar with orientalist discourses about the Jews, were opposed to them, in part simply out of a general distrust of innovation and of Gentile ideas. 

Still, some Orthodox Jews embraced the Moorish style.  Perhaps they shared the hope that Moorish style buildings would gain the Jews respect, or, perhaps  once Moorish style synagogues were common everyone came to think of them as simply "Jewish."  In Baltimore, for example, the German-Jewish congregation, worshipping in a classicist synagogue, was becoming increasingly liberal, causing the more Orthodox members to leave and found congregation Chizuk Amuno.  It was the Orthodox splinter group that hired a German-American architect to build them a new synagogue.  Henry Burge designed a fine Moorish style building, completed in 1876. 

From the seventies on, a large number of Moorish style synagogues were built in almost every center of Jewish life in America. Their inventory is far from complete. When it is, it may include a good hundred buildings, many of them no longer standing. The East Coast and the Midwest have many examples.  One might also randomly mention a small selection of the less predictable locations:  Wilmington, North Carolina; Portland, Oregon; Albany, Georgia; Bloomington, Illinois; Easton, Pennsylvania; El Paso and Houston, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Port Gibson, Mississippi; Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee. 

German-speaking emigrants, including rabbis, were also conspicuous in Britain.  It was in part under their influence that many Moorish style synagogues were built there, starting in the seventies.  Among these were the Upper Berkley Street synagogue of London (1870), the Prince’s Road synagogue of Liverpool (1874), and the Garnethill Synagogue of Glasgow (1877).

In Italy, the first Moorish style synagogue in the Lombard town of Vercelli (1874-1878) was built by a local Gentile architect, Giuseppe Locarni.  A more successful Vercelli-born architect, Marco Treves, who was Jewish, contributed to that project, and was also, it seems, the principal force in the design of the Florence tempio, finished in 1882. [48]   (The only other Italian synagogue in Moorish style was that of Turin, completed in 1884 - unless one includes Fiume, which is now Rijeka, Croatia, and whose synagogue was completed in 1895.) 

Treves was actually a hold-out against the Moorish style.  The Vercelli community built in Moorish style against his advice.[49]  In Florence he and two colleagues designed a large neo-Renaissance synagogue.  However, their plans were blocked by the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in 1872, who felt that

… as every Nation has stamped its own history in [its] monuments, and most of all its religious monuments, so a building with the said function must manifest at first sight so effectively a marked character that it recalls the dates and the places that are of most interest for this Religion, and a character such as cannot be confounded with the religious or secular monuments of other Nations and Religions.[50]

Unlike four decades back when the Kassel community objected to a still new and untried Moorish style, however, this time there was little room for protest.  For the Accademia had done its research and discovered that what they preached “has been practiced already, in the modern period, in many cities of Europe.”[51]  The weight of recent tradition, in other words, was behind them.  The Jewish community was grateful to the Accademia for its suggestions, and compelled its architects to follow them.  They in turn seemed to have been happy enough to oblige.

The first mushrooming of Moorish style synagogues – from about 1855 to about 1880 - took place during a time that  “Western” Jews considered to be one of great promise.   It was entirely in keeping with the spirit of other such occasions when Rabbi Jellinek, dedicating Förster’s Viennese synagogue, likened its rise to that of the dry bones in Ezekiel's vision, and thanked "the God of my fathers, who changes the times."[52]  For at the economic, judicial, and to some extent even the political level the Jews had never had it so good.  To optimists it might sometimes appear that they were being accepted socially as well, and perhaps even admired as the oriental race foundational to Christian civilization. Not only were Jewish authors a la mode, but so - it seemed - were the Jews themselves to some extent, especially if, continuing the tradition harking back to Lessing and his contemporaries, they could be presented as wise orientals.  Disraeli's David Alroy made quite a splash.  But works by Gentiles like George Eliot’s Daniel Aronda also presented ostensibly positive Jewish characters as orientals, and were even more eagerly consumed.[53]  If by building orientalist synagogues the Jews hoped to appeal to a certain exotic cachet they seemed to hold for some Gentiles, they appeared to be succeeding to a large extent.

Of course, evidence of progress in Gentile-Jewish relations was far from unequivocal.  Many prominent and ordinary Jews felt that baptism was the price they had to pay for social and economic advancement, in a context where in several German and Italian states the Jews lost the rights Napoleon had given them.  Still, for the most part “Western Jews” remained optimistic, perhaps even unaware of the extent of the backlash  brewing against them. 

Judging by today’s standards of civility, the open anti-Jewish attacks that some public speakers, journalists and cartoonists allowed themselves were unbearably rude.  Yet it appears that many people felt at least under some compunction not to express their worst sentiments, at least not directly to the Jews.  Behind the relatively civil tone of the Florentine Accademia’s letter, for example, there was a heated private debate in which one incensed academic exhorted his colleagues to "tell the truth" to the Jews.  He demanded that the project be unconditionally rejected as inadequate to the "sublime idea of a Temple dedicated to God, even if one belonging to the Israelite religion."[54]  That the professors decided to keep such sentiments to themselves helped Florentine Jews feel better about the way their Gentile compatriots regarded them.  But it only goes to prove that there was some truth in what Richard Wagner had said when, in his anti-Jewish pamphlet Judenthum in der Musik (1850), he claimed that he was only saying out loud what everyone else thought.

Wagner’s ranting could be relatively easily dismissed as it did not, at least at first, lead to any organized anti-Jewish movement, any more than the less vitriolic but nevertheless damning “expert” opinions of the highly respected French orientalist scholar, Ernest Renan.  Renan believed that the Semites lacked imagination, “naturalism,” and the inclination to mythology.  Therefore, he argued, the Semitic character was incompatible with the European spirit. [55]  The fact that he later half-heartedly exempted the contemporary European Jews did not help.  Many Jews, probably correctly, read Renan’s work as an attack on themselves.  Some of the numerous and influential Jewish orientalists raised their voice in protest; most notable among these were H. Steinthal and Daniel Chwolson.[56]

The Challenge of Anti-Semitism

It was only when anti-Jewish discourse was coupled with organized agitation that its threat became obvious.  This happened with the outbreak of the so-called Berlin Antisemitismusstreit ("dispute about anti-Semitism") in 1879.  In that year, the historian Heinrich von Treitschke joined the Prussian court preacher Alfred Stöcker in the first popular, organized backlash against the economic and cultural advances made by the Jews.  The hate campaign spread and intensified.  In France an anti-Jewish smear campaign blamed Jews for the financial irregularities surrounding the bankruptcy of the French Panama Canal project in 1889.  The notorious Dreyfus trials, which lasted with long interruptions from 1894 to 1906, came on the tail of a series of such “scandals,” as the slap in the face of those who hoped for peaceful coexistence among Jew and Gentile. 

Jews who espoused romantic Semitism had acted in the mistaken belief that the orientalist fashion expressed a genuine admiration for the East.  However, as Edward Said has demonstrated, the essence of orientalism was to define an Other that was to be excluded and dominated.  In this respect, orientalism was - and this is something not discussed by Said - essentially the same when it addressed the Arab, the Indian, or the European Jew.  In all cases it idealized a distinctive “oriental” human type different from that of the (“real”) European.  The “oriental,” although often romanticized, was seen as too different from the “occidental” to merit basic political rights.  In the case of colonized peoples, such rights included independence; in the case of the Jews they meant principally access to careers in the army, the professions, and government.  Such careers, it was pointed out, required a full appreciation of Western concepts of learning, fairness, and loyalty. The anti-Semites argued that such occidental concepts were congenitally alien to the Jews.  More damagingly, they called for the exclusion of the Jews from many of the professions.  This was particularly threatening to a Jewish population that had based much of its economic advance on education.

By the eighteen-eighties, anti-Semites routinely used the epithets “oriental” and “Asiatic” to stress that the Jews were aliens from another part of the world (Treitschke called Heinrich Graetz, his main opponent, "a foreigner on the soil of his `accidental country of birth,' an oriental who neither understands nor wants to understand our People.”[57])  It was during this period that certain anti-Semites began to object to the oriental style in synagogues. 

In 1881, the German orientalist scholar Paul de Lagard commented on the New Synagogue of Berlin by attacking the Jews.

[Their] alien nature is stressed every day and in the most striking fashion by the Jews - who nevertheless wish to be made equal to Germans - through the style of their Synagogue.  What is the sense of raising claims to be called an honorary German and yet building the holiest site that one possesses in Moorish style, so as to never ever let anyone forget that one is a Semite, an Asiatic, a foreigner?[58]

At last, the debate about Jews as orientals showed its exclusionist potential. Weary of the connotations of the Moorish style which they themselves supported so enthusiastically just a little while back, German-speaking Jews began to look for alternatives.  This improved the job prospects of architects who opposed the Moorish style, and none more than those of Edwin Oppler, a Jew, whose early work dates to the eighteen sixties.  Oppler’s social agenda was entirely clear.  “The German Jew in the German State must,” he fumed, “build in the German style” (which, to him, was the Romanesque!).[59]

Still, the Moorish style more than held its own.  Indeed the period between 1880 and 1914 – which we may regard as the late period in the history of the Moorish style synagogue - witnessed perhaps the greatest ever proliferation of Moorish style synagogues.  Lipót Baumhorn of Budapest built dozens of them in Greater Hungary, ranging from the now Slovene Rijeka (1895) and the now Serbian Zrijanin (1896) to the now Rumanian Braşov (1901).  In Hungary proper, his 1930 synagogue at Gyöngyös (co-designed with György Somogyi) still shows definite Moorish style features. 

Elsewhere, the synagogue of St. Petersburg was completed in 1893.  There was the large synagogue of Sophia, Bulgaria (1909, a rare Sephardic example).  Across the ocean, in the United States, Moorish style synagogue building continued unabated (e.g. Eldridge Street, New York, 1887; Helena, Montana, 1891; Denver, Colorado, 1899).

In many, perhaps even in most, cases, this was due simply to inertia; in others, congregations geographically removed from Germany and France may not have suffered the full impact of the anti-oriental rhetoric of the anti-Semites.  But Moorish style synagogues continued to be built in Germany as well (Lorsch 1885, Kaiserlauten 1886, Pforzheim 1893, Aschaffenburg 1893, Wolfenbüttel 1893, Hamburg 1895, Bonn-Poppelsdorf 1902).  In Austria, the “Turkish” synagogue of 1887 might be attributed to nostalgia on the part of its Sephardic Balkan Jewish community, although it was built every bit like a splendid Reform synagogue in Moorish style.  But that could hardly be said of Wilhelm Stiassny’s “Polish Synagogue” of 1893.  The synagogue completed in 1924 in Vienna-Hietzing by the American architect Grünberger is one of the latest examples of an orientalist synagogue anywhere.

In such cases, there is no doubt that the choice of the Moorish style was made  deliberately and in the face of criticism from its opponents.  It reflected the wish by a some Jews not to abandon the orientalist perception of themselves, but rather to assert it with renewed passion. 

Many of the Zionists, in particular, proclaimed their oriental separateness with pride.  There was a “Semitic” stream in Zionism, whose chief ideological spokesman was Martin Buber.  The clearest outline of Buber's orientalism came in his 1912 speech entitled "The Spirit of the Orient and Judaism."  "The great complex of Oriental nations," he argued, including the Chinese and Indians as well as the Semites, "can be shown to be one entity …"[60]  The psychological characteristics of such nations are those of the "motor type" and contrast with the characteristics of the "sensory type," typified by the peoples of the West.  Buber's speech was given to his devoted followers at the Bar Kokhba Association of Jewish University Students in Prague.  Franz Kafka was a member of the Association, though probably a rather marginal one.  His friend Max Brod was, as usual, more enthusiastic.  He contributed his own essay to the volume where Buber’s talk was first published.  Other collaborators contributed articles with d titles such as "the Jew as Oriental."

Buber’s ideas were hardly unique.  His friend, Gerschom Scholem, the famous scholar of Jewish mysticism, grew up in a home where the idea that Jews were orientals was most familiar.  A 1904 photograph from Scholem's childhood shows the family's children performing a play written by their mother, entitled "Ex oriente luz."  Gerschom's siblings are dressed respectively as an Arab, a Chinese and a Jew, while Gerschom (then Gerhard Arthur) sports the dress of a Hindu.[61]  Many artists, such as Ephraim Lilien, created visual art with an orientalist influence (Lilien's Palestinian Jew wears a striped tunic and ploughs with a camel).  European Zionists sold postcards of kibbutz members protected by Arabic headwear while working in the fields.[62]

Wilhelm Stiassny

The ideals of orientalist Zionism and of Moorish style synagogue architecture were joined in the work of the highly respected Viennese architect and Jewish community leader, Wilhelm Stiassny.  Born in Pressburg (now the Slovak capital, Bratislava) in 1842 as the son of a wealthy businessman, Stiassny in time became one of Vienna's most sought-after architects and, as a city councilor, a major figure in late nineteenth-century urban design. 

Stiassny's oeuvre is not sufficiently known.  Apart from synagogues in neo-Romanesque style, he did design at the very least the Moorish style synagogues of Čáslav (1899) [63] , of Leopoldgasse, Vienna (the "Polish synagogue" - 1892-93), of Gablonz (now Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech Republic; started in 1892 but apparently only finished in 1922), [64] and of Malacky (now Slovakia; 1886-87).  He was also responsible for the Jerusalem Street synagogue in Prague, and it was he who, as the temple’s architect, joined Rabbi Deutsch in addressing the dedication gathering we referred to at the start.

Stiassny's correspondence reveals his superb connections.  He visited and corresponded with some of the city's aristocracy.  His contacts also included some that give evidence of his continuous interest in the Orient and "exotic lands" in general; there was the Austrian consul looking after the country's interest at the building of the Suez Canal; or an ambitious African explorer. [65]

Stiassny had a fine relationship with the Rothschilds.  In 1878 he built the family mausoleum in Vienna.  By then he had been responsible for the Rothschild Hospital in Vienna (1870-75) and its oriental equivalent, the Rothschild Hospital in İzmir, Turkey, then better known as the heavily Jewish city of Smyrna.

Among Stiassny’s closer acquaintances was Ignaz Goldziher (1850-1921), who has often been thought of as the period’s greatest orientalist scholar and a reluctant secretary of the Budapest community, resident in Förster's grand Moorish style edifice. [66]   Stiassny had in his childhood also known Godziher’s teacher, the baptized Hungarian Jew Hermann Vambéry, [67] who has been described as "the most famous orientalist that our Monarchy had." [68]

But Stiassny’s most impressive contact may have been Theodor Herzl, recognized as the founder of modern political Zionism.  "On the basis of documents made available to me,” wrote a Viennese journalist,

it was Baurat Stiassny that first ignited the Zionist idea in Herzl, while the latter at first, by far more practically-minded, preferred another land for the realization of his Jewish State. [69]

Unfortunately, the documents the author, Klothilde Benedikt, refers to have not been preserved, nor has, it seems, any correspondence between Stiassny and Herzl.

What is clear is that Stiassny was an ardent Zionist.  He was the founder and the president of the Jüdischer Kolonisations-Verein in Wien.  This organization published, in 1909, a booklet containing Stiassny's blueprint for Zionist settlement. [70]   Here the architect combines all of his life-long interests:  in urban planning, in the Orient, and in the future of the Jewish people. 

His design for a Jewish settlement is essentially a typical "green suburb" transplanted to the Orient.  He dreamed that it would be constructed "on the basis of all the experience that has been gathered in communal activity in the great cities of Europe during the last thirty years.  (…)  No house without a garden, no street without trees, no square without a garden area and fountains.  (…)  In all, the principle of the development is the completely free-standing house." [71]   Yet this was, in Stiassny's eyes, with all its European provenance an oriental city.  The city's bazaar, an "endless row of arcades," stocks beautiful artifacts made of gold, silver, and other precious metals.  The wares originate mostly "in the Orient, in Mesopotamia, Persia, Afghanistan, in Tibet and Kashmir, in the East Indies and the Indian archipelago." [72]   Here is

not `a garden city' but “a city in a garden,” similar to the jewel of Syria, the crown of Lebanon, Dimeshk esh-Shamu, the royal city of Damascus!" [73]

Stiassny had enough confidence to imagine that his colony would become the major city in the Jewish homeland, a sort of an autonomous city-state under Turkish suzerainty.  It was to support its own artists, and even to have its own university. 

Given his connections to the Rothschilds, Stiassny was perhaps not overoptimistic in hoping that they and others would help.  His pamphlet closes with the hope that a "high-placed personality" would become the protector of the project. [74]   Unfortunately, the architect died a year later and his rather detailed plans were never carried out.  (Some of what he claims to be his original ideas - possibly with some exaggeration - did nevertheless materialize, such as focusing on oranges and olive trees in the Holy Land, rather than the Rothschilds' initial project, wine.)  

In our context the project's most interesting feature was where it was imagined to be.  It may well have been very close to fabled Damascus.  For Stiassny entitled his pamphlet Anlage einer Kolonie in Heiligen Lande oder in einem seiner Nebenländer, or “The Establishment of a Colony in the Holy Land or in one of its neighboring regions.”  Let us remember that this was written by the architect who allegedly dissuaded Herzl from settling the Jews in “another country,” perhaps Argentina or Uganda.  Stiassny’s acceptance of a “neighboring region” as a settlement option was not motivated by “practical” advantages alone, such as one might see in the Ugandan project.  He evidently believed that the Jews, as orientals, would be returning home no matter where in the Middle East they went.

It is doubtful that such thinking would have impressed Herzl, who promised that the Jews settling in Palestine "will constitute a bulwark against Asia, serving as guardians of culture against barbarism." [75]    But Stiassny was not at all unique in seeing Zionism as a movement to become oriental again, rather than to fend off the threat of the East.  Ben-Gurion, who while living in Istanbul posed for the photographer wearing a fez, declared that the "significance of Zionism is that we are, once again, becoming an Oriental people." [76]

Aladar Deutsch

If he ever brought it up with Rabbi Deutsch, Stiassny would most likely have found his orientalism enthusiastically applauded. 

In the Deutsch file at the Jewish Museum of Prague are found two chapters from an unpublished manuscript whose anti-West, anti-Aryan tone surpasses anything ever seen in press.  The fight between the East and West had, the manuscript says, already begun.  The "smallest of the fighters proved himself the strongest.  He had enough spirit to quickly see through the hollowness and the weakness of Western culture, (...) and he organized the resistance to it."  The identification of this unnamed "fighter" is difficult, but in the next passage the author clearly speaks of the Zionists, whom he sees as the vanguard of a great oriental revolt:

A small fragment of the old Orient had given its old virtues, which had never decayed, a new life, in order to sweep away the Lie.  The Orient is moving, it is beginning the fight with a small maneuver against the falseness of the West ....  It is beginning to wake up, it will carry out its renaissance and reconquer what Esau of the West had snatched away from it; in order among other things to cleanse its soul of the influence of the mentally and spiritually wasted, to make "Ex oriente lux!" once more the truth. … The Orient as the old site of spiritually infused Semitism (Semitentum) will, recognizing the spiritual emptiness and cowardice of the Aryan so-called culture force back the Aryan where he belongs.[77]

That this fight is not exclusively that of the Jews is made clear in the next paragraph, which demands

… the unification of the whole Family of Sem and the preservation of the purity of their cultures and principles.[78]

It is not known if the manuscript is by Deutsch, but he seems to have kept it carefully, with his sermons and addresses.  He, like most “Semitic” Zionists, may have been a lot less extreme and confrontational than the manuscript's author.  But it is true that the rabbi, whose doctorate was on three ancient Syrian songs,[79] was most fond of rhetoric glorifying the ancient Jewish descent line.  In the secular Gymnasium where he taught religion to Jewish students, he liked to wax eloquent about the glories of "our fathers" in the Land of Israel.[80]  In his sermons Deutsch typically referred to the patriarchs as Stammväter.  Stamm, which also means "stem," refers to a group of related individuals with, so to speak, a common family tree: in different contexts it can mean a brood, a clan, a tribe, a nation, a race.  Stammväter means "fathers of the Stamm."

Deutsch's intense Jewish nationalism sometimes colored even his theology.  One shabbat gadol Deutsch's sermon dealt with the Mezuzah.  Traditionally the little receptacle with a tiny scroll is affixed to each door in a Jewish house to enjoin all who come in to love God "with all your heart and all your might."  Deutsch, however, gave the Mezuzah a different interpretation, which focused not on those who pass through, but those who pass by the house.  He said the Mezuzah was there so that

those who pass by should know that the inhabitants of the houses belong to the oldest civilized nation, which celebrated a festival of freedom before any other in history.[81]

If not traditional, however, this interpretation did reflect well the intent of the liberal Jews who affix a Mezuzah only to their entrance door, in order to advertise their Jewishness to the neighborhood.  Deutsch thought of the Jerusalem Street Synagogue itself as a kind of Mezuzah, attracting the attention of the passersby to the presence of a great "nation."

The interesting Moorish style forms an effective contrast to the other buildings surrounding it, and the façade, glimmering as if covered in colorful jewelry, forces all passers-by to give it their attention.[82]

Ostentatious display of Jewishness was in fact a typical motivation of communities that built large synagogues, enjoying the freedom to do so after centuries of enforced architectural modesty.  When Berlin's liberal Jews built their flagship Oranienburger Street temple, they decided to interrupt its construction as it dawned on them that its dome would not be very visible from the street.  They made the architect go back to the drawing board and move the dome right up front, in order that "right here at the street front already, the character and function of the building be decisively developed."[83]  As Primo Levi said about the grand synagogue planned by the Jews of Turin, the "Israelite Temple" was meant to be "an outsized exclamation mark."[84]

It is a measure of the hidden insecurity behind the proud posturings of the Jewish "orientals" that their most strident exclamation marks were made of brick and stone. The manuscript in Deutsch's files was never published and not much if anything Jews said in public equaled its bold assertiveness.  When it came to proclaiming the pride many Jews once felt in their " race," it was largely diverted from language into the safer - because more ambiguous - channel of architecture.  Hence the outlandish, richly adorned, and deliberately "loud" Moorish synagogue.

Acknowledgements

I gratefully acknowledge the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada through various grant programs administered by the Department of Anthropology and Victoria College, University of Toronto.  Among the many other individuals who aided parts of the research (but cannot be held accountable for its shortcomings) were research assistant Sharon Graham and colleagues and friends Barbara Anselmi, Jan Ederer, Paul Mendes-Flohr, Derek Penslar, Aleksandr Putík, Hermann Simon, Marcella Simoni, Hannah Suess, Giuseppe Veltri, and Hartwig Wiedebach.



[1] Bohemia (Prague), September 17, 1906.  Unless otherwise noted, all translations are the author’s.

[2] Bohemia, September 16, 1906. 

[3] Miles Danby, Moorish Style (London, 1995), 14.

[4] Carol Herselle Krinsky, Synagogues of Europe: Architecture, History, Meaning  (Cambridge, MA, 1985), 81 ff.

[5] Hannelore Künzl, Islamische Stilelemente im Synagogenbau des 19. und frühem 20. Jahrhunderts (Frankfurt am Main, 1984).

[6] Ismar Schorsch, "The Myth of Sephardic Supremacy," Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 34 (1989), 47-66.

[7] Umberto Eco, "Interpretation of History," in Umberto Eco with Richard Rorty, Jonathan Culler, and Christine Brooke-Rose, Interpretation and Overinterpretation, ed. by Stefan Collini (Cambridge, 1992), 25.

[8] The "dilemma" is expressed Harold Hammer-Schenk, Synagogen in Deutschland.  Geschichte einer Baugattung im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (1780-1933) (Hamburg, 1981), I, 251-301 in the context of the most comprehensive work to date on synagogue architecture in Germany.  Cf. Schorsch, "The Myth of Sephardic Supremacy," 57.

[9] "Der Rassenkampf ist das Ursprüngliche, der Klassenkampf das Sekundäre." Moses Hess, Rom und Jerusalem, die letzte Nationalitätsfrage; Briefe und Noten  (Prague, n.d.), 211 (Epilogue, section V). 

[10] ... in nome della nazionalità, contrastano la loro esistenza contro tutto il mondo Romano.  David Levi, Il Profeta, o La Passione di un Popolo.  I.  L'Oriente  (Torino, 1884), xxiv.

[11] "L'Occidente indaga, esperimenta, scompone e ricompone la materia per iscoprirne le leggi.  L'Oriente, come dice un storico, è il travaglio affannoso della umanita' in gestione del suo Dio."   Levi, Il Profeta, viii.

[12] Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979).

[13] The -ism in the word "orientalism" is now routinely interpreted to signify animosity to the referent named by its root, so that orientalism evokes "racism" and "sexism" rather than "multiculturalism" or "feminism," where the same suffix expresses a positive attitude.

[14] More precisely, neo-Renaissance, neo-Romanesque, and neo-Gothic.  I am leaving out the “neo-“ prefix for simplicity’s sake.

[15] Frequently these are inspired by one of Owen Jones' works, such as his Plans, Elevations, Sections and Details of the Alhambra, 1845.

[16] There is a tradition in writing about synagogues to claim that the Gothic was rejected in favor of the Romanesque by synagogue architects who felt that the former was more “Christian” than the latter.  In fact, not a few Gothic-style synagogues were built in the nineteenth century.  Albert Rosengarten, it is true, preferred Romanesque-style synagogues, but his opposition to the Gothic was founded largely in general architectural considerations.  He did state the commonly held view that the Gothic was suitable for Catholics, while the Romanesque suited both Protestants and Jews.  See Albert Rosengarten, Albert Rosengarten, A Handbook of Architectural Styles (London, 1880),  482.

[17] Schuchardt’s written opinion on the Kassel synagogue proposals (1830’s) as reproduced in Rudolf Hallo, Geschichte der jüdischen Gemeinde Kassel unter Berücksichtigung der Hessen-Kasseler Gesamtjudenheit  (Kassel, 1931), 52.

[18] Hans Semper, Gottfried Semper.  Ein Bild Seines Lebens und Wirkens.  Mit Benützung der Familienpapiere  (Berlin, 1880), 14.

[19] Otto Simonson, “Der Neue Tempel in Leipzig,” Architektonisches Album 2 (Berlin, 1858), 3.

[20] G. Guastalla, February 1884, published by request of the Jewish community.  Quoted in Simonetta Jona Treves, "Dalla comessa ad Alessandro Antonelli, atraverso la crisi dei rapporti fra Università Israelitica e progettista, al nuovo progetto di Enrico Petti," Architettura judaica in Italia: ebraismo, sito, memoria dei luoghi, ed. by Rosalia La Franca (Palermo, 1994), 398-9.  Krinsky (Synagogues, 85) thinks that the Russian Gentile critic V.V. Stassov was first to suggest a connection to Spain in an essay published in 1889 but perhaps written in the eighteen seventies.

[21] Eduard Bürklein, “Synagoge in Heidenheim,” Allgemeine Bauzeitung, 1854, 390.  The 1849 date for the synagogue is tentative: see Harold Hammer-Schenk, Synagogen in Deutschland, I, n. 622.

[22] Ludwig Förster, "Das israelitische Bethaus in der Wiener Vorstadt Leopoldstadt," Allgemeine Bauzeitung (1859), 14.

[23] This was unlikely to have been an original belief.  The same year that Förster wrote his memo, The Jewish Chronicle and Hebrew Observer (December 16, 1859, 7) reported that at Odessa the new synagogue was "constructed in the Arabian style, as that most cognate to the supposed architecture of the temple of Solomon."

[24] Förster, "Das israelitische Bethaus," 14.

[25] Förster, "Das israelitische Bethaus," 15.

[26] Hammer-Schenk, Synagogen, 256.

[27] The Copenhagen synagogue (1831-33) is ignored here, although it might be argued that the crenellations at the top of its ark are Moorish style (they might also be read, in the context of a predominantly classicist building with Egyptian-style elements, as Greek-inspired).

[28] The suggestion that there was an organized effort to build such synagogues comes from Bernhard Kukatzki, personal communication. 

[29] Harold Hammer-Schenk, “Die Architektur der Synagoge von 1780 bis 1933.”  Die Architektur der Synagoge  (Stuttgart, 1988), 80, 259-61.

[30] Hallo, Geschichte der jüdischen Gemeinde Kassel, 22.

[31] Pinhas’ memorandum is reproduced in Hallo, Geschichte der jüdischen Gemeinde Kassel, 55-56; cf. Michael A. Meyer, "`How Awesome is this Place!'  The Reconceptualisation of the Synagogue in Nineteenth-Century Germany," Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook 41 (1996), 57-58.

[32] Jacob Katz, Jews and Freemasons in Europe 1723-1939  (Cambridge, MA, 1970), 255.

[33] 1 Kings 7:21, as translated in Tanakh:  The Holy Scriptures.  The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text  (Philadelphia, etc., 1988).  Cf. 2 Chronicles 3:17.

[34] The Rosicrucian "movement," for example, showed many features of later freemasonry, including its orientalist imagery and consideration for the supposed secret arts of the Jews.  See Frances A. Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London, 1972).

[35] Die Juden teilen sich wieder ein / In zwei verschiedne Parteien; / Die Alten gehn in die Synagog', / Und in den Tempel die Neuen.  Heinrich Heine, Deutschland, ein Wintermärchen (1844), ch. 22.

[36] Haggai 2:9.

[37] Gotthold Salomon, Die Herrlichkeit des zweiten Tempels, (Haggai 2, v. 9.) eine bei der Einweihung des neuerbaueten Israel. Gotteshauses am 5. Sept. 1844 (am 21. Elul 5604) gehaltene Predigt  (Hamburg, 1844), 9.

[38] Pamphlet quoted by Krinsky, Synagogues, 298.

[39] Cf. Edwin Oppler, affidavit regarding the Hannover synagogue, quoted by   Hammer-Schenk, Synagogen, 206.

[40] Hans Semper, Gottfried Semper, 14.

[41] Gottfried Semper, "Die Synagoge in Dresden," Allgemeine Bauzeitung (1847), 127.

[42] Hammer-Schenk, "Die Architektur," 204, categorically denies any such influence.

[43] Adolf Jellinek, "Zwei Reden zur Schlusssteinlegung und zur Einweihung des neuen israelitischen Tempels in der Leopoldstadt am 18. Mai und 15. Juni 1858.”  (Vienna, 1858), 4.

[44] For a history of the "Spanish Synagogue" (originally known as the "Israelite Temple" with no reference to Spain), see Ivan Kalmar, "Origins of the `Spanish Synagogue' of Prague," Judaica Bohemiae 35 (1999), 158-209.

[45] Ruth Wischnitzer, The Architecture of the European Synagogue (Philadelphia 1964), 207.

[46] John Sweetman,  The Oriental Obsession:  Islamic Inspiration in British and American Art and Architecture (Cambridge, 1988), 236.

[47] Sheldon Levitt, Lynn Milstone, and Sidney T. Tenenbaum, Treasures of a People:  The Synagogues of Canada (Toronto, 1985), 36.

[48] Rosella Bottini Treves, Il Tempio Israelitico di Vercelli, Storia di un Progetto, extract from Bollettino Storico Vercellese 2 (1995), privately published, n.d.

[49] Bottini Treves (Il Tempio, 9) quotes from a letter by Treves, dated 21 October 1872, where he, having criticized the Moorish style, attributes its use at Vercelli to the local architect.

[50] "Voto sul Progetto di un Tempio pel culto Israelitico," Reale Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in Firenze to Università Israelitica di Firenze, December 5, 1872.  Archives of the Jewish Community of Florence.

[51] ibid.  The proceedings of the 1a Classe dell' Accademia delle Belle Arti di Firenze (Book 4, archives of the Accademia delle Belle Arti) record the session of November 23, 1872, in which Prof. Emilio De Fabris was entrusted with researching the current state of synagogue architecture in Europe.

[52] Jellinek, Zwei Reden, 4.

[53] Patrick Brantlinger, “Nations and Novels:  Disraeli, George Eliot, and Orientalism,” Victorian Studies 35 (1992), 255-75.

[54]  Atti della 1a Classe dell' Accademia delle Belle Arti di Firenze (Book 4, archives of the Accademia delle Belle Arti), interventions of Felice Francolini during the session of November 23 and December 3, 1872.

[55] Among Renan’s early pronouncements on the Semitic character was his “Nouevelles considérations sur le caractère général des peuples sémitiques, et en particulier sur leur tendance au monothéisme,”  published in the Journal Asiatique in 1859.  See also Renan’s letter to Max Müller, Paris, May 8, 1860, Ernest Renan, Correspondance, 1846-1876 (Paris, 1926), vol 1, 166-9.

[56] H. Steinthal, “Zur Charakteristik der semitischen Völker,” 1860, reprinted in H. Steinthal, Über Juden und Judentum, Vorträge und Aufsätze, herausgegeben von Gustav Karpeles (Berlin, 1906), 91-104.  Daniel Chwolson, Die semitischen Völker.  Versuch einer Charakteristik (Berlin, 1877), reproducing an 1871 lecture series.

[57] Heinrich von Treitschke, "Herr Graetz und sein Judenthum," in Der Berliner Antisemitismusstreit, 2nd ed., ed. by Walter Boehlich (Frankfurt am Main, 1965), p.45.

[58] Paul Anton de Lagarde, “Die Stellung der Religionsgesellschaften im Staate,” February 1881.  Included in Deutsche Schriften, Gesammtausgabe letzter Hand (Göttingen, 1886). 

[59] Edwin Oppler, affidavit regarding the Hannover synagogue, quoted by   Hammer-Schenk, Synagogen, 206.

[60] Martin Buber, “The Spirit of the Orient and Judaism," in Vom Judentum; ein Sammelbuch, ed. by the “Verein Jüdischer Hochschüler Bar Kochba in Prag” (Leipzig, 1913), transl. in Martin Buber, On Judaism, ed. by Nahum N. Glazer (New York, 1967), 56.

[61] The photograph has been reproduced in Paul Mendes-Flohr, Divided Passions (Detroit, 1991), 110.

[62] A number of such post cards are on file at the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem.

[63] Stiassny's authorship and the date of construction can be confirmed by the minutes of the Čáslav community executive preserved in the archives of the Jewish Museum of Prague, and by press reports such as the one in the Israelitische Gemeindezeitung (Prague, September 1, 1899).

[64] Hugo Gold, ed.  Die Juden und Judengemeinden Böhmens in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart. Ein Sammelwerk  (Brno and Prague, 1934).

[65] The greater part of Stiassny’s correspondence is at the Jewish Museum of the City of Vienna.  Other letters may be found in the Schwadron Collection, Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem.

[66] Some correspondence between Stiassny and Goldziher is in the Schwadron Collection at the Jewish National and University Library archives, Jerusalem, Ms.Var. 466.

[67] Hermann Vambéry to Wilhelm Stiassny, Nov. 26, 1909, Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem.

[68] Vambéry obituary, Neue Freie Presse, September 15, 1913.

[69] Klothilde Benedikt, "Erinnerungen an Theodor Herzl," Neues Wiener Journal, May 26, 1918.

[70] Wilhelm Stiassny, Anlage einer Kolonie in Heiligen Lande oder in einem seiner Nebenländer (Vienna, 1909).

[71] ibid., 38-39.

[72] ibid., 44-45.

[73] ibid., 38.

[74] ibid., 53.

[75] Theodor Herzl, Der Judenstaat (1896), repr. in Wenn ihr wollt, ist es kein Märchen.  Altneuland / Der Judenstaat, ed. by Julius Schoeps (Kronberg / Ts., 1978), 213.  Herzl saw little contradiction in making this sentence follow one where he implores "His Majesty the Sultan" to "give us" Palestine and promises to "settle entirely the finances of Turkey."

[76] The literature for "To the East," an exhibition of Israeli orientalist art at the Israel Museum in 1998, used Ben-Gurion's 1926 pronouncement and the preceding quote by Herzl as examples of the complex attitude to the Orient by the Zionist movement and, later, Israeli society.

[77] Manuscript, Jewish Museum, ch. 9, 144.  Jewish Museum of Prague, Deutsch archive.

[78] ibid., 144.

[79] His diploma, issued on January 30, 1895 at Bern, gives his dissertation title as  "Edition dreier syrischen Lieder nach einer Handschrift der Berliner Königlichen Bybliothek."  Jewish Museum of Prague, Deutsch archive.

[80] Kraus, František R., "Odešel patriarcha … můj starý učitel," Věstník Židovské náboženské obce (Prague) 9, September 1949, 101.

[81] Deutsch sermon on Shabbat Gaddol Tirtsah, Jewish Museum of Prague, Deutsch archive.

[82]… die in Farbenschmuck erglänzende Fassade zieht unwillkürlich den Blick aller Vorübergehenden auf sich.” Aladar Deutsch, Die Zigeiner-, Grossenhof- und Neusynagoge in Prag.  Denkschrift herausgegeben anlässlich der Erbauung des aus diesem Gotteshäusern hervorgegangenen Kaiser Franz Josef Jubiläum-Tempels  (Prague, 1907), 68.  

[83] "damit gleich hier an der Strassenfront schon Charakter und Bestimmung des Bauwerkes in voller Entschiedenheit ausgeprägt sei."  G. Knoblauch and F. Hollin, Die Neue Synagoge in Berlin.  Entworfen und ausgeführt von Eduard Knoblauch.  Vollendet von August Stüler (Berlin, 1867).  (Reprinted with an introduction by Heinz Galinski and an essay by Hermann Simon (Berlin, 1992).

[84] "... spropositato punto esclamativo."  Primo Levi, "Prefazione," anon. ed., Ebrei a Torino.  Ricerche per il centennario della sinagoga 1884-1984  (Turin, 1984), 13.  Levi was speaking about the "Mole Antoniano," the fantastic Turin landmark that combines classicist and orientalist, though not necessarily Moorish style, elements.  The community was forced to sell it while still incomplete, and it has since been used for secular purposes.